I’ve been delivering packages for the last 26 years and I thought I would give my thoughts on the subject of packaging from a different perspective than what you might be used to. Maybe you could consider this article to be “The word on the street”.

Lasting Impressions. You want it to be the best it can be. 

Now that your hard work has paid off in a sale, your item(s) are sent to the shipping area and the shipping clerk prepares to pack and ship your item(s) to your valued customer. Let’s suppose that you are a large office supply company and the customer ordered 5 different items, a ruler and a ream of copy paper, two packs of paper clips, and a pad of sticky notes. The warehouse usually ships in an 18X12X12 corrugated cardboard box so that is what the shipping clerk pulls to ship your items. It is a bit bigger than it needs to be so he puts lots of Kraft paper in the box to fill it up so the items don’t move around too much. Nice job right? The comments I receive when delivering these types of packages are, “What a large box for what I ordered. Look at all this paper that is wadded up in here. What a waste!” That is the first last impression. Read on for the second last impression. 

The shipping clerk forgot one of the packs of paper clips. Your customer calls to notify you of the error and the shipping clerk immediately gets a pack of paper clips and puts it in the same size box as before and does not put any packing at all in it because it is only one small item. You know what this customer is going to think now, don’t you? Let’s add offense to their irritation by putting a twist on this. Your customer opens the box after it’s delivered and not only thinks it’s a waste to ship a small pack of paper clips in such a large box but now the paper clips are all over the box because they broke open during shipping since they were bouncing all over the inside of the box like a ping pong ball during transit (these things really do happen!). Now your customer has a second and permanent last impression of your company. 

Let me paint a mental picture of what your customer thinks of your organization from the comments I receive from them: “That company must be run by a bunch of dropouts who do drugs, wear strange clothes, and listen to scream-o heavy metal music all day. They don’t have a clue.” Your valued customer is going to be looking for another supplier of their office supplies. After all, anyone can sell office supplies online. Your customer wants to buy from companies that give them that feel-good buying experience.

Your shipping clerk is an important part of your company and you need to make sure that he has excellent training, quality supplies, the right kind of supplies, and the freedom to make common sense decisions. Why don’t you call him your shipping manager or shipping associate to give him a feeling of importance?

Here are some important steps to follow to keep your shipping department running smoothly and efficiently.
1. Proper packaging and shipping training from a someone with extensive experience
2. Keep appropriate shipping supplies on hand
3. Periodically evaluate the shipping department for overall best packaging and shipping practices
4. Meet with the shipping crew weekly to discuss issues that need attention
5. Reward shipping department for cost saving strategy suggestions that you implement
6. Review feedback from your salespeople and directly from customers regarding packaging and shipping
7. Keep updated on the latest shipping rates and how they will affect you
8. Don’t be afraid to make changes, even major changes, in your warehouse and shipping department if they streamline your operation and keep customers happy

Are you ready for some examples of extreme packaging goof ups? These are examples that I have had to deal with personally. I live in central Texas and it gets to be at or above 100 degrees all summer long. There was a very nice hotel with an excellent restaurant on my route and one day in July they received a 50 pound box of frozen fish from the state of Washington. There were two problems with this shipment. It was shipped in a wax covered corrugated box AND it was not shipped using an expedited service. After 4 or 5 days en route it smelled pretty awful and it was leaking sticky fish goo all over the place. I had to hose down the inside of my truck with hot water to get the sticky smell out. That very same week the same hotel received, from a different shipper, 25 pounds of white chocolate shipped in a standard corrugated box with no packing. Even though an expedited air service was used it does not take long for white chocolate to melt in 100 degree weather. It leaked also but I didn’t mind the smell because I love white chocolate. Why wasn’t the shipping department using an insulated shipping container with dry ice for such perishable items? That’s why you need to follow the steps I have stated above.